During more than three decades of deep-sea research, the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have logged more than 5,800 dives and recorded more than 27,600 hours of video—a vitally important component of the institute’s publications, productions, and exhibitions around the world. But the high-definition (HD) footage captured by the cameras in these ROVs isn’t cutting it anymore, and the institute is now recording its first video clips in glorious 4K.
But you need a special camera to shoot the special critters and habitats found at depths of around 13,000 feet—or nearly 2.5 miles down. To develop the new 4K camera system, MBARI engaged DeepSea Power & Light, a company with the know-how to produce a large, precision optical dome port that could perform under the extreme conditions of cold and crushing pressure. DeepSea Power & Light, in turn, enlisted the help of Fathom Imaging to design a custom optical adapter that could achieve the necessary high-resolution and low-distortion image targets.
The collaboration resulted in the first 4K underwater imaging system for deep-sea applications—the MxD SeaCam—which was initially deployed on MBARI’s Ventana ROV in the fall of 2021 and is now in active use on the Doc Ricketts, MBARI’s other ROV. “4K gives us much higher resolution for studying the structure of the animals we investigate, particularly the transparent species,” says MBARI Senior Scientist Bruce Robison. “4K lets us see the fine details of how these animals are put together and how all the individual parts work, individually and together.”
“New and never-before-seen 4K footage” captured with the MxD SeaCam will be featured in an upcoming exhibition from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the institute’s education and conservation partner. Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean opens on April 9, 2022. Find out more about the huge challenges of creating the exhibition here.
Check out the samples below—and many more fascinating videos on MBARI’s YouTube channel.
Canon EOS R6 Mark II
Backscatter Mini Flash MF-2
Ikelite Housing for OM System OM-1
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